It’s no secret that the sweatpant was the must-have piece of 2020.
The leisure item took over last year alongside T-shirts, hoodies and sweatshirts as the uniform for lockdown. Even before the pandemic, brands that specialize in sweats, such as Pangaia, which launched in 2018, and Sporty & Rich, founded in 2014, benefitted from shopper interest in leisurewear, but the category exploded as the pandemic took hold.
Pangaia said it was able to “compress a five-year [overall brand] financial plan into a one-year time frame” in 2020. And Sporty & Rich founder Emily Oberg said her brand also experienced positive sales in 2020 led by bestselling crewnecks and hoodies.
Fear of God launched its Essentials line in 2018 with mock-neck sweatshirts and sweatpants, which served to differentiate it from its upscale mainline, and Danish designer Martin Asbjørn launched a casual M.A. Collection comprised of sweats to complement its casual suit offering.
“In 2020, we launched our leisurewear M.A. Collection with great success. The collection is easy-to-wear pieces all made from organic cotton and recycled polyester,” said Asbjørn. “The bestsellers leading up to the pandemic were actually our tailoring pieces, but our tracksuits have been really popular after the pandemic.”
As the cases of COVID-19 fell and vaccines rolled out earlier this year, many parts of the world emerged from strict lockdowns. And despite the fact that cases are rising again due to the Delta variant, new lockdown rules allow for society to continue to operate more openly.
So what does that mean for the lockdown wardrobe? Consumers who have dressed up for unlikely occasions — such as running errands and shopping for essentials — may be the amongst the first who experienced “sweats fatigue.”
Asbjørn said he’s excited to dress up again and Oberg expects more elevated wares to trend next season and beyond as businesses open and travel resumes. Still, they’ve seen positive sales from their casual offering despite the leniency in lockdown rules.
“At the beginning of 2021, our M.A. collection has been the bestseller for us,” Asbjørn said. “But we are starting to see an increase in the more tailored looks again, especially with our new fall 2021 drops, which offer more relaxed tailoring.”
Oberg said the brand’s Tennis Collection and Shirting capsule were bestsellers this year and she noticed customers are buying higher-ticket items. “Yes, they are always interested in sweats and casual styles,” she said. “But our newer, more dressy styles are selling well also. People will always be into activewear as long as they are into being active.”
Pangaia said it continues to see strong traction for its offering. “We continue to learn from our customers,” the company said, “especially in understanding their complete lifestyle needs. With this in mind we will continue to evolve our range while remaining focused on delivering consciously made products that are timeless additions to anyone’s wardrobe.”
The sentiment from these brands is that sweats are here to stay, but the consumer is ready for a change. After being home for nearly a year and a half, consumers are ready to step out of the house looking their best, which may or may not include sweats. Much like denim over the years, brands can benefit from offering casual, leisurewear to attract new customers to the brand or an alternative to existing customers seeking a new look in a post-pandemic world.
Case in point is Sporty & Rich’s swim offering, which Oberg said performed great in 2021. And next season, the brand will add knitwear and coats to its collection. And for Martin Asbjørn, casual suits have emerged as bestsellers this year and the designer said he is launching women’s wear for fall 2022.
“I hope we will continue to see an increase in the more tailored looks because that’s where my passion lies,” he said.
The rest of this year and beyond will tell if the consumer shares the same passion.